Andy Murray reached his second career Grand Slam final after a tough 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 victory over No. 14 seed Marin Cilic in the Australian Open semifinals on Thursday.
“Well, it feels good,” Murray said after the 3-hour,2-minute affair. “I mean, obviously had not had that long to think about it. But it’s obviously quite a long match. Pretty intense. A lot of nerves and stuff in the first set. But, yeah, glad I got to come through, obviously.”
The fourth-seeded Murray dropped the opening set behind two Cilic breaks but seized the lead with an incredible reverse forehand smash winner off a lob to give Murray the go-ahead break in the second set 3-2.
Of that shot Murray said, “It was really important ’cause I don’t want to say the match was slipping away from me, but the momentum was definitely with him. The beginning of the match I created, I think, more of the chances I had, you know, opportunity to break right away and didn’t take it. And he played some really aggressive tennis after that, you know, was putting me under a lot of pressure. But, yeah, that shot made a big difference.”
Cilic, who had been on court a tournament-high 18-hours, 8-minutes entering the match played crisp, error free tennis for the first 90 minutes, but the first-time Slam semifinalist soon began to fade at the hands of the surging Murray. But despite his tired legs the 6-foot-6 Croat kept battling.
Said Cilic, “In the end I’m, of course, a little bit sad because of the final result. But overall I played beginning of the match very good, and with that part I was really pleased. I think I played some great points. I was standing on the court really good. I was playing some unbelievable points there. I think later when he got back into the game in the second set when he broke me, I think he got a little bit of the momentum going and wasn’t easy after to get back into it.”
Late in the match Murray equaled if not bettered his second set break point wizardry by lasering a jaw-dropping stretch forehand winner around the netpost that sent the crowd into a frenzy. Some called it one of the tennis greatest shots ever struck.
Murray will now play the winner of Friday night’s Roger Federer vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga match in the singles final. Murray has beaten Federer in six of ten meetings and defeated Tsonga in two of three.
“Obviously Roger’s record in slams speaks for itself,” said Murray. “He had a great year last year in them making all four finals. You know, he lost the the two that he lost were incredibly tough five-setters. You know, if I’m going to play against him, it will take a special performance to win against him. But I feel like I can do that. Tsonga, he’s one of the most exciting guys to watch because of his athleticism and the way that he plays. He’s obviously had great results here in the past, so…Both obviously going to be very tough. Federer obviously has more experience than Tsonga.”
In his only prior Slam final Murray was defeated by Roger Federer at the US Open in 2008. That was also Murray’s last final appearance and a Grand Slam.
“After last year I had a few tough losses in the Grand Slams,” Murray said. “You know, Wimbledon, I had a chance to make the final there. Lost a really, really tight match against Roddick. It’s nice. It’s what you work for. It’s why at the end of the season I go to train in Miami to try and give myself the opportunity to play in these slams. Obviously, I want to try and win one.”
By winning Murray will try to become the first British man to capture a Grand Slam since Fred Perry won the 1936 US Open. Murray is also the first British player to reach the Australian Open final since John Lloyd in 1977.
“This is the best I’ve played at a slam, I think,” Murray added. “Obviously the match against Rafa was great. Tonight, the majority of the match was great, as well. But, yeah, I feel good. Physically I’m going to be fresh for the final. You know, just comes down to who plays the better tennis on the day. It’s my job to do that.”
Murray will climb to No. 3 in the ATP Rankings and jump past Novak Djokovic to No. 2 should he win on Sunday.
The men’s final will be played Sunday evening at 7:30pm in Melbourne.
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